AI, ZK proofs, crypto wallets and dApp support among major themes at demo day
The crypto industry continues to face myriad headwinds, but there’s no shortage of startups and founders diving into the space.
Alliance DAO, a web3 accelerator and builder community, had its most recent cohort, also known as ALL10, present their ideas on Wednesday during a demo day, exclusively covered by TechCrunch. Check out the previous Alliance DAO demo days we covered here in November and here in July.
Twice a year, Alliance DAO brings in web3 founders for a three-month program. The current cohort had a record 1,692 applications, up 77.5% from its previous cohort, Qiao Wang, a core contributor at Alliance DAO, said during the event. Of that number, only 16 startups made the cut and graduated from the program.
The latest cohort makes for a good snapshot of what’s happening in the industry at large, Wang said. Many of the teams are looking at improving popular crypto sub-sectors, like the Bitcoin network, appchains, rollups-as-a-service, zero-knowledge proofs, proof-of-physical-work, and real-time blockchain data, to name a few.
“The intersection of AI and crypto is another major theme,” Wang said. AI has the potential to fundamentally change crypto games, on-chain analytics and off-chain computations, he added.
This was the first Alliance cohort to see a number of startups using AI integrations, pointing to an increasing opportunity for automated technology to be integrated into the crypto ecosystem.
A majority of the startups in the batch are building on the Ethereum ecosystem, while some focused on EVM-compatible chains like Polygon, Optimism, Arbitrum and Avalanche, and others are looking at Solana, Filecoin, Chainlink, Sui and Bitcoin.
“The second year of the bear market is the most painful part of the cycle. This happened in 2019, in 2015, and this is happening again this year again in 2023,” Wang said. “This is also the part of the cycle where resources such as capital and talent are scarce. But what we’ve learned from working with over 100 startups is that you do not need a team of 50 people or hundreds or millions of dollars in VC funding to achieve great things.”
Tensor illustrates that point. A part of Alliance DAO’s ALL9 cohort, the three-person company recently raised $3 million in March and is already close to becoming the biggest Solana-based NFT marketplace based on market share.
Mentors for the ALL10 cohort include Anatoly Yakovenko, the co-founder of Solana; Ryan Wyatt, the president of Polygon Labs; Juan Benet, the founder and CEO of Filecoin; Kevin Sekniqi, the co-founder of Ava Labs; Evgeny Yurtaev, the co-founder and CEO of Zerion; Amir Bandeali, the co-CEO of 0x; and Julian Koh, the co-founder of Ribbon Finance.
Here’s a breakdown of the 16 startups:
Company name: Teablocks
- What it does: ChatGPT for blockchain data
- Founders: Tariq Patanam, Ammar Khan
- The pitch: Teablocks is making a platform that provides ChatGPT for blockchain data. The platform requires no technical expertise and aims to be flexible so users can ask precise questions and access information easily, Ammar Khan, co-founder and CTO of Teablocks, said. It leverages blockchain data and custom AI agents to turn raw data into “something more readable,” Khan said. Teablocks has over 300 companies on its waitlist and is raising a seed round.
Company name: Xverse
- What it does: Bitcoin wallet for web3
- Founders: Ken Liao
- Stage: Seed
- The pitch: Xverse is a bitcoin-focused crypto wallet for web3. It allows users to have self-custody of their assets, and provides a MetaMask-like experience for DeFi, NFTs and more, according to founder and CEO, Ken Liao. Xverse is live on Android and iOS, and is available on desktop as a Chrome extension. It has over 130,000 users to date. It’s also integrated with crypto projects and applications like Ordinals Market, Magic Eden and Gamma. The wallet is raising a $4 million seed round, of which $2.5 million has already been committed, Liao said.
Company name: Snapchain
- What it does: ZK-rollup-as-a-service
- Founders: Zidong Zhang, Morgan Howell
- The pitch: Snapchain is a zero-knowledge-rollup-as-a-service aimed at developers. ZK rollups reduce transaction fees for users, but deploying and managing chains involves a “steep learning curve and a recurring maintenance cost,” according to Morgan Howell, Snapchain’s co-founder. The startup helps devs configure, create and manage ZK-rollups through its no-code console. Snapchain is raising a seed round.
Company name: Glow
- What it does: Proof of Physical Work for carbon credits
- Founders: David Vorick
- The pitch: Glow is building proof of physical work (PoPW) for carbon credits. “We use tokens to incentivize the construction of solar panels [that] produce carbon credits and displace unclean energy from the grid,” Glow’s founder, David Vorick, said. About 9 million Glow tokens will be awarded to solar panel operators annually, proportional to the number of carbon credits produced, which in turn would contribute to the construction of more solar panels. The carbon credits will be distributed as yield to token holders, Vorick said. The protocol is launching in August, and is currently raising a seed round.
Company name: Modulus Labs
- What it does: Trustless AI via zero-knowledge proofs
- Founders: Daniel Shorr, Ryan Cao, Nick Cosby
- The pitch: Modulus Labs is building trustless AI with zero-knowledge proofs to make the technology cheaper and more accessible for crypto protocols. To bring AI on-chain, the features have to be fully centralized, which is limiting decentralized protocols like Uniswap from engaging with the technology due to high costs, Daniel Shorr, co-founder and CEO of Modulus, said. The startup’s system delivers inexpensive AI integrated with blockchain security for less than a cent, Shorr added. Its current customers include WorldCoin. The startup is raising a seed round.
Company name: AwesomeQA
- What it does: AI community management for web3
- Founders: Alexander Abstreiter, Korbinian Abstreiter
- Stage: Seed
- The pitch: AwesomeQA is building an AI community management service for web3 by providing support tools for automation on community channels like Discord and Telegram. It has an AI model that looks at multiple sources like chat history, product documentation and, in the future, on-chain data, to gain knowledge and answer questions from users, co-founder and CEO Alexander Abstreiter said. Its AI has an accuracy rate of 94% and is currently live with 47 customers like Aave, Dune Analytics and Scroll, he said. The team recently closed its seed round but is open to strategic investors.
Company name: Primodium
- What it does: On-chain composable game
- Founders: Morris Hsieh, Emerson Hsieh
- The pitch: Primodium is building a fully on-chain, open source, composable game. “The goal of the game is to gain map control, research technologies and expand your factory,” CEO and co-founder Morris Hsieh said. The game was launched four days ago and has over 500 users with 10,000 transactions. Some users have built game content, bots and entirely new game modes, Morris added. Primodium is raising a seed round.
Company name: Fountain
- What it does: Wallet management for teams
- Founders: Morgan Lai
- The pitch: Fountain is building “Okta for web3,” its founder and CEO Morgan Lai said. The platform integrates companies’ custody accounts, exchanges, wallets and dApps to manage them in one place, Lai shared. “Managers can delegate different applications to employees without sharing private keys,” she added. Fountain also provides an audit trail for compliance requirements. The company is looking to raise a seed round.
Company name: Itos
- What it does: Perpetual synthetic options
- Founders: Terence An, Brian Broeking
- The pitch: Itos makes American-based perpetual synthetic options with elements like variety, liquidity and cross-margins. “Protocols have only been built with one of these elements in mind,” said Terence An, co-founder and CEO of Itos, adding that cross-margined and American-based ones are missing from DeFi entirely. The platform will come out of stealth and launch its automated market maker in the third quarter of 2023, and a suite of structured products in the fourth quarter. It’s raising a seed round and looking for potential liquidity partners.
Company name: Dataleap
- What it does: Copilot for user research
- Founders: Jan Damm, Jan Ruettinger
- The pitch: Dataleap is creating a ChatGPT companion and copilot for user research and product teams. “We aggregate every touch point you have with your customers,” whether it’s on Zoom, Slack or another platform, co-founder and CEO Jan Damm said. The copilot provides standardized aggregations and feedback linked to original sources. Its design partners currently include Personio and Forto. Dataleap is looking to raise a seed round.
Company name: Caldera
- What it does: No-code customizable app chain
- Founders: Matthew Katz, Parker Jou
- The pitch: Caldera is a no-code web3 infrastructure platform that helps developers create customizable application-specific chains. The platform previously raised $9 million across two rounds. The startup aims to simplify the process of creating app-specific blockchains so builders can create Layer-2 blockchains on Ethereum within minutes. Its public testnets have attracted over 250,000 unique wallets with 650,000 transactions, Matthew Katz, CEO and co-founder shared. The company is looking for strategic investors.
Company name: Wallchain
- What it does: MEV recovery for end users
- Founders: Maksym Bevza, Yurii Kyparus
- The pitch: Wallchain is a web3 anti-bot solution that provides MEV recovery for users on decentralized exchanges. It aims to protect transactions and give money back to users that would have otherwise gone to bots. It’s the most used MEV-recovery on the BNB and Polygon blockchains, according to its website. It has secured over $1.5 billion worth of transactions monthly by being the default method of execution for Quickswap, BabyDoge and ApeSwap, Yurii Kyparus, co-founder and CEO of Wallchain, said. It previously raised a seed round but is open to strategic investors.
Company name: Singularity
- What it does: Payment rails for application chains
- Founders: Aditya Gupta, Sumit Vohra
- The pitch: Singularity is a payment rails provider for application chains that aims to allow users to move funds in and out of web3 easily. “We allow users to pay with any method they like, fiat or token, and deposit funds directly into their app-chain wallet,” Aditya Gupta, co-founder and CEO of Singularity, said. The startup is live on Oasys and Polygon, and is working with three design partners on the Oasys chain. The company is looking to close its seed round.
Company name: Hashmail
- What it does: Intercom for web3
- Founders: Bharat Kumar Ramesh, Swapnika Nag
- Stage: Seed
- The pitch: Hashmail is a web3 intercom alternative that aims to provide support for dApps. The platform is an omnichannel, web3 native, AI-powered solution that integrates support across applications’ front ends and community channels in less than 10 minutes, Swapnika Nag, co-founder and CEO, said. Since its console launch in February, it has powered over 500,000 messages for 50,000 wallets across 30 dApps like Unstoppable Domains, OKX Chain, Superdao. It previously raised $1.1 million and is looking to raise its seed round.
Company name: Defined
- What it does: Enriched real-time blockchain data
- Founders: Mike Rowe, Braden Simpson, Nathan Lambert, Matt Fikowski, Derek Binnersley
Stage: Series A
- The pitch: Defined provides companies with real-time blockchain data that they can use to index and decipher query transactions. It gathers data from over 1.5 million tokens and 420 million NFTs across 45 different networks, including Ethereum, Binance Smart Chain, Arbtirum, Optimism, Avalanche and Polygon. Define has over 300,000 monthly active users and provides services for platforms like TradingView, 0x and sudoswap, CEO and co-founder Mike Rowe said. The company is raising a new capital round.
Company name: Pocket Universe (Made by Refract Inc.)
- What it does: Web3 fraud prevention
- Founders: Nishan Samarasinghe, Justin Phu
- The pitch: Pocket Universe is a free web3 fraud prevention and browser extension by Refract that aims to protect users from phishing scams and crypto wallet draining. The extension shows users web3 transactions before they sign them to help them better understand the actions and keep their assets safe. It has no access to a user’s wallet, seed phrase or private keys – meaning wallet owners will still need to sign in to their own wallets to move assets. It has over 60,000 weekly active users, Justin Phu, co-founder and CEO, said. The extension is compatible with Metamask, Coinbase and “wallets that use similar methods,” like XDEFI or Frame, according to its website. The company is raising a seed round, and has $1.25 million already committed.